Friday, June 29, 2007

This week

Monday, People-smuggling via Spain: I asked whether any new proposals had emerged from the EU-Africa conference held in Spain the previous week, at which the FCO was represented. In particular, had any progress been made with the EU-Africa action plan on migration and development, which seeks to involve both the countries of origin and transit in solving this problem.
The Minister, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, didn’t have the results of ‘that very important meeting, which took place in Madrid between officials’.
Tuesday, China:Darfur: I asked whether, at the day before’s high-level meeting in Paris, the Chinese delegation had made any statement in support of the hybrid force, and whether the Minister thought that in view of the slight change in China’s attitude we could rely on Beijing in future to help sort out any difficulties that may arise with the deployment.
The Minister, Lord Triesman replied that the Chinese had supported the concept of the hybrid force for some time, hadn’t varied that position yesterday, and were unlikely to do so in the future. He didn’t say whether he thought they would be helpful ironing out any problems with the deployment.
Wednesday, Zimbabwe: I asked whether, considering that SADC and President Mbeki in particular had ignored the successive resolutions of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the violation of the human rights of opposition parliamentarians, the current efforts by President Mbeki to negotiate a solution would be even-handed and will give the opposition a fair chance in any future electoral test. What did the Minister know about SADC’s policy on the millions of destitute refugees flooding into its countries and the destabilising effects on the whole region of the economic meltdown he had mentioned?
Lord Triesman said that some very poor countries in the region were absorbing and supporting a very large number of refugees with a great deal of pain. He didn’t want to say anything negative about President Mbeki’s efforts, considering that he had managed to bring together government and opposition, but he feared that with the perpetual violence visited on the opposition, their capacity to take part in a free and fair election, would be so greatly diminished that they could never be on a level playing field.
Thursday, People Trafficking: Speech too long to summarise, and not a very informative reply from Steve Bassam
I had a query from a correspondent about my appeal to the Information Tribunal, seeking full disclosure of the dates of contacts between Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch, which I had said would be heard at the end of March. The timetable was put back at the request of the Treasury Solicitors, and they no doubt had it in mind that Mr Blair would by now have left the scene. But watch this space.

Other meetings this week:

Parliamentary Gypsies and Travellers Group
Discussion on Peter Archer’s Bill to provide civil remedies for torture victims
Whips Office leaving party for Neil Balmer
Parliamentary Armenia Group AGM
Summer Reception German Embassy
Parliamentary Human Rights Group officers’ meeting.

And the big event of the week, Gordon Brown’s reshuffle, from a worm’s eye point of view? By the close of play there was no news on whether Liam Byrne was still in post as Minister for Immigration, or who would replace Patricia Scotland as Home Office Minister in the Lords. No news either on whether David Triesman will carry on as FCO Miniter in the Lords. For the Grand Committee on the Borders Bill starting on Monday, we seem to be left with Steve Bassam. We shall miss Valerie Amos as Leader of the House, but Cathy Ashton is an excellent appointment. Ed Balls, a former Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecturer, has been appointed Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

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